FORMER president Nelson Mandela’s charismatic grandson Mandla’s “marriage” to a French-speaking teenage beauty he met on the romantic island of Reunion has been declared null and void following a determined legal bid by his estranged wife Tando.
Mandla Mandela, 36, who is a Member of Parliament, prominent businessman and chief of the AbaThembu nation, married Anais Grimaud, 19, in March last year while still married to Tando.
But Tando, 31, who married Mandela in a high-profile ceremony in 2004 but left him four years later, scored a double court victory in the Mthatha High Court on Friday, when she had his customary marriage to Grimaud declared null and void.
He was also ordered to pay Tando R12500 a month in maintenance and a portion of her legal costs. On top of that, Tando is now divorcing Mandela – also known by his praise name Zwelivelile – with the court date for the hearing set for June 15.
Tando’s legal triumph means the path is now clear for her also to claim half of Mandela’s estate. Mandela was not present in court and refused to comment on the ruling.
Tando and her legal team last year failed in a last-minute appeal to stop Mandela from marrying Grimaud at Mvezo Great Place, where he is chief.
Speaking to Weekend Post following the precedent-setting judgment, Tando said she was not opposing her husband’s marriage to Grimaud for “emotional” reasons, but because she wanted to ensure she received her share of the joint estate since they were married in community of property.
“I just want what I’m entitled to. I’m not just fighting for money, but for rights as a woman married in community of property and the lifestyle I had before marriage. I was a earning over R27000 per month and only left my job because of marriage. I was renting my own place and studying part time,” said Tando, who completed a post graduate degree in media management from Rhodes University last year.
She has had to live off the kindness of her two sisters since leaving Grahamstown at the end of last year. “The only reason I left Johannesburg and came to the Eastern Cape was because he was going to be chief and needed me to run the homestead at Mvezo. He didn’t want me anywhere other than where he was and he didn’t want me being employed – especially by a male figure.
“I married him because I was in love with him and respected him just like people feel in any marriage. But the common ground and principles we put in place at the time of our union did not live up to that and I made the decision to leave.”
Tando would not divulge her reasons for leaving, saying this would emerge during the divorce proceedings. She still had to decide whether to “keep quiet” and not pursue her right to her half of Mandela’s estate or risk going to court where controversial or personal matters could come to light.
“The ball is in his court. I will go according to legal process, but he has the power to say, ‘I will do what’s right and give you what’s lawfully yours’. Then it will come to an end and there won’t be any court hearings.”
She said during their union, which began when Mandela paid lobola for her when she was 23, she lived with him in Nelson Mandela’s house in Qunu and in his Norwood, Johannesburg, home. She decided to walk out following “an accumulation of events on different occasions”.
Tando said she did not feel “jealous” that Mandla had married Grimaud, but simply sought to secure her half of the assets. “I was not stopping the marriage because I wanted him back, but because our marriage was not concluded. You don’t take what you acquired (in a marriage) to the next marriage at the disadvantage of one person.”
Referring to the Rule 43 judgment in which she will receive a monthly sum of R12500, Tando said it had been “a breakthrough” to get to this point following mysterious court delays. “But there is a justice system that says it doesn’t matter who you are.”
She said her maintenance victory would be “a weight off my family’s shoulders”.
Tando, who has been living in Durban this year, said she was keen to finalise the divorce. “I want it to be over without having this cloud hanging over me. I’d love to run my own business and have a property portfolio as well as continue with community work.
“And I really wish him (Mandela) all the best. On my part there is no malice.”
Tando’s attorney, Wesley Hayes, said having Mandela’s customary marriage to Grimaud declared null and void had set a legal precedent.
“We had to bring that application because if we had just accepted her (Grimaud) she would be entitled to part of his estate.” Hayes said Mandela was “refusing to declare” what he earned.